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The U.N. calls on the world to block arms trafficking to Haiti amid spike in gang warfare

A person's arm reaches into a cardboard box filled with weapons on top of a table.
Rodrigo Abd
Small assault-style weapons confiscated in Haiti last fall.

The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously to threaten sanctions against those shipping weapons and ammunition to the gangs that have overrun Haiti.

The U.N. voted late Friday to call on the world to block all small arms and ammunition going to the gangs that have overrun much of Haiti — a resolution that comes amid one of the bloodiest eruptions of Haiti’s gang warfare.

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Almost 100 people were killed in armed gang violence last week in and around Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The country’s two largest gang coalitions are locked in a turf war that’s terrorizing impoverished districts like Cité Soleil.

The U.N. Security Council vote recognizes — albeit belatedly — that rampant arms smuggling into Haiti is fueling the violence. Haiti estimates more than half a million illegal firearms, including assault-style weapons, are in the country now. U.S. states like Florida are a key source.

The U.N. resolution, drafted in part by the U.S., threatens economic sanctions against those who take part in the trafficking. But it does not call for the embargo on arms to Haiti that China lobbied for.

Since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated a year ago this month, Haiti’s public security has collapsed along with its government. Gangs now control half of Port-au-Prince, and their sometimes deadly kidnappings for ransom continue unchecked.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.